Moscow University’s IAC: Senior Zhuz Kazakhs Are Mongols, Middle Zhuz Ones, Oirats, Junior Zhuz Ones, Turks – OpEd


If one wants to understand how representatives of the so-called Russian deep State can split the Kazakh people and divide them into parts seen as separate ethnic groups, there is no need for him to go far in search of illustrative cases of that kind. It would be enough for him to turn to the example of how those guys recently did similar things with the Tatars in Russia.

In Putin’s Russia, it has become an established practice among the policy-makers and decision-makers to consider Tatars as a whole as a grouping of ethnicities of different backgrounds united into one people based on relative language community in the Tsarist and Soviet periods. Results are as follows: their number in Russia decreased by 220 thousand from 5.53 million in 2002 to 5.31 million in 2010, by 600 thousand from 5.31 million in 2010 to 4.71 million in 2021., in a report entitled “The [Russian] census in the part relating to the Tatars was not carried out properly. Kazan [the capital of Tatarstan, an autonomous republiс within the Russian Federation] should ask Moscow for an explanation”, said: “The results of the population census [held in 2021] in Russia have raised serious questions among experts. Historian, ethnologist Damir Iskhakov cited various causes for the decrease in the number of Tatars and called not to believe these numbers”.

And here is one of the explanations for why this (such a sharp reduction in the number of Tatar people in Russia) is the case. The thing is that earlier on it was usual to divide the Tatars into three main ethno-territorial groups: Volga-Ural Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars, and Siberian Tatars. In nowadays Russia, Siberian Tatars and Astrakhan Tatars are considered separate ethnic groups. Representatives of the Volga-Ural Tatars who form the core of the Tatar population are categorically opposed to such a change.  But a number of activists representing Siberian Tatars and Astrakhan Tatars insist that their peoples are separate ethnic groups having their own unique languages and cultural peculiarities. Diana Khomyakova, in her study entitled “Unrecognized Ethnic Group” and published by the Nauka v Sibiri outlet with the Siberian Academy of Sciences, said: “Representatives of the Kazan intelligentsia are rebelling against singling the Siberian Tatars out as a separate ethnic group. Some researchers from the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan are convinced that “the federal authorities and individual scientists are purposefully provoking the growth of regional self-awareness of individual Tatar ethnic groups and thereby preventing their consolidation into a single nation, which the Tatars, in essence, are”. But it does not bring any results. Because Russia’s central authorities and scientific community are backing those activists representing Siberian Tatars and Astrakhan Tatars. It seems like they give support to minorities (Siberian Tatars and Astrakhan Tatars) in their disputes with those who represent the majority (Volga-Ural Tatars). 

But experts from among the last “believe that Moscow wants to split the Tatar nation through the hands of local activists”. Historian and ethnologist Damir Iskhakov “believes that Orthodox forces working for Moscow, as well as Bashkir and Nogai activists, are behind the separation of the Siberian Tatars from the Tatar nation”. At a meeting organized by the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in February 2023, Yuri Kvashnin, а representative of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, claimed that “the Tatar nation had been invented during Soviet times”.

Rinat Nassyrov, chairman of the coordination center of Tatar organizations of the Tyumen province of Russia, said indignantly: “If the Russian Academy of Sciences allows itself to say “there are no Tatars,” then this is a lie. Neither the Prosecutor nor the President pays attention. You can’t just look at it. If they said that there were no Russians or Chuvashs, it would be different”.

It is noteworthy that Kazakhs, too, have lately begun to hear something similar addressed to them from Moscow. Russian historian Mikhail Smolin recently said on the air of NTV that before the Soviet times, “there were no Kazakhs at all”. He was not the first person who voiced such an opinion. One ethnic Russian woman, a Kazakhstani citizen, made the same statement publicly even earlier, back in 2022.

It appears that Moscow’s propaganda, which has long maintained that in the pre-Soviet times, “there was no Kazakhstan” (this is about Russian MP Vyacheslav Nikonov who once referred to Kazakh territory as ‘a big gift from Russia’) and “there were no Kazakhs at all” and has been available to Russian speakers in the former Soviet space,  does its job.

But if Mikhail Smolin and his kind in Russia believe that “Kazakh” is a modern ethnonym, introduced in the 20th years of the twentieth century, who do they think contemporary Kazakhs are?

Back in 2009,, the website of Moscow University’s IAC (Information and Analytical Center), gave the following answer to that question: “Senior Zhuz Kazakhs are Mongols, Middle Zhuz ones, Oirats, Junior Zhuz ones, Turks”

Akhas Tazhutov

Akhas Tazhutov is a political analyst from Kazakhstan.

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